From ABC Rural:

Federal Government scraps food grants program

ABC Rural Updated Fri 21 Feb 2014, 3:53 PM AEDT
The Tucker Patch
Photo

The Tucker Patch, run by not-for-profit organisation The Gloucester Project, applied for funding from the $1.5m Community Food Grants program. The demonstration garden in Gloucester, in the NSW Upper Hunter Valley, is trialling small and large scale crops.

Kim Honan

The Federal Government has scrapped the $1.5 million Community Food Grants program.

The funding was announced last May by the former Labor government as a key initiative of the National Food Plan.

It would have seen money invested in projects such as farmers markets, food co-operatives and hubs, community gardens, and city farms across the country.

But applicants have now been advised by letter that the program has been reviewed and a decision made that it won't be continued due to the 'tight fiscal environment'.

Donna Carrier, from Wingham in northern NSW, had applied for $5,000 to develop an interactive website and app to help consumers and restaurants connect with producers.

"I'm pretty disappointed because it wasn't a lot of money that we'd asked for, and we had funding that we were going to match," she said.

"There were actually people on our committee that had their own hard cash that they were going to put towards helping this project, because it was something that we could do to develop food tourism in the area."

The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance is also disappointed.

The alliance's national co-ordinator, Nick Rose, says it was the first time that work by the community food sector had been recognised at a federal level.

"And really the justification that it's in any way going to make any difference to the total government Budget bottom line is quite frankly ludicrous. We're only talking about $1.5 million," he said.

"Really, it's quite a petty and almost spiteful slap in the face to people who have a different vision, different set of values about what food and farming can mean for this country."

A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture says the Australian Government remains strongly committed to a vibrant, innovative and competitive agriculture sector.

"This is why the government is developing a White Paper Agricultural Competitiveness, which will drive long-term agricultural policies and ensure Australia's agriculture sector remains a significant contributor to the national economy and local communities.

"The White Paper will take into account the analysis done for the National Food Plan, in the context of the government's agriculture and food related policies.

"A priority of the White Paper will be to generate jobs, boost farm gate returns, investment and economic growth in the agriculture sector."

There were 364 applications for the Community Food Grants program.

Posted Fri 21 Feb 2014, 10:33 AM AEDT

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  • From ABC Rural:

    Costa says community gardens no threat

    Updated Fri 28 Feb 2014, 12:08pm AEDT

    There's been a backlash on social media over Ausveg's comments on community gardens.

    The peak body for the vegetable industry believes that they're a biosecurity risk to the country's horticulture sector.

    Ausveg initially made the comments in a press release that supported the Federal Government's decision to scrap the $1.5 million Community Food Grants program.

    The program, a key initiative under Labor's National Food Plan, would have provided funding to community gardens and farmers' markets, but also food hubs, food rescue groups, and local food projects.

    But Costa Georgiadis, presenter of ABC TV's Gardening Australia, says community gardens are no threat to biosecurity.

    "Community gardens are about growing awareness and getting people inspired in local seasonal food," he said.

    "To think that spending money on an initiative like that that brings people closer to their food, and develops food as a health initiative, how could you think that a $1 million spent on growing community.

    "The thing with community garden is that it's not just the produce you're growing, you're growing the actual community, people are sharing, people are engaging.

    "My community garden in my street is not a threat to the biosecurity of the country, because in a community garden the moment fruit is ready it's gone.

    "I struggle with the thought that a community garden is a biosecurity threat, I think the only threat the community gardens are posing to some ways of thinking is that people are becoming more aware of a local food option and not relying on imports."

    There's a growing interest among Australians in the local food movement, with those wanting to either grow their own or meet those who do.

    "I think what community gardens and the whole local food system is saying is let's ditch convenience for seasonality and let's make local the driver of our food ethos, which is about health and not about convenience," he said.

    Costa says that if industry bodies see this movement as a threat, then they're taking a backward step.

    "What they're doing is saying 'We're going to shut you down' it's only going to build a bigger groundswell, when they should be building that groundswell to actually promote more and more growers in local areas," he said.

    "That will only ultimately build up the end-game for them, which is exports."

    Topics: community-development, gardening, vegetables, wagga-wagga-2650, port-macquarie-2444

    First posted Fri 28 Feb 2014, 10:43am AEDT

  • More from ABC RURAL :


    Community gardens a 'risk' to fruit and veg sector

    ABC Rural Kim Honan Updated 19 hr 34 min ago

    Demonstration garden at Gloucester
    Photo

    Volunteers working in The Tucker Patch at Gloucester, NSW. The demonstration garden, run by not-for-profit group The Gloucester Project, is trialling small and large scale crops. Produce is sold weekly at the farm gate shop and monthly at the local farmers' market.


    Australia's peak body for the vegetable industry believes community gardens pose a biosecurity risk for the country's horticulture sector.

    The criticism comes on the back of the Federal Government scrapping the $1.5 million Community Food Grants program, created by the former Labor government under the National Food Plan.

    Ausveg's William Churchill says his industry has welcomed that decision, and says the money could have been better spent developing export markets for growers.

    "A lot of these gardens may not be in the best nick, so to speak, and the issue we then have is with infestations with either pests or diseases, and then that becomes a threat in itself to commercial horticultural operations that need to comply with strict adherence to quality assurance guidelines," he said.

    "What happens when we start to get biosecurity risks is that growers may have to take pre-emptive action to prevent pests from arriving on their properties, and what that does is that it means they have to keep the product in the ground longer, rather than being able to get it out to consumers.

    "So the end issue with having community gardens more prevalent out there is that a biosecurity risk becomes far more likely if community gardens start to grow."

    Mr Churchill has also raised concerns about food safety at farmers' markets.

    "We've seen a litany of examples where people have passed themselves off as other growers," he said.

    "We have concerns there as well there about food standards and quality assurance programs that are in place."

    But Michael Croft, from the lobby group Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance, says Ausveg has 'lost the vegetable plot', and that the real risks to Australia's biosecurity are not community gardens.

    "By claiming the axing of community food grants was good policy, Ausveg is working against the best interests of Australian vegetable growers - particularly those that supply the domestic market," he said.

    "To make matters worse, Ausveg repeats calls for further trade liberalisation - a double-edged sword.

    "Free trade agreements, and the import competition they bring, are the main reason for Australian vegetable producers' woes, as the SPC Ardmona saga demonstrates.

    "That Ausveg can't or won't see this fact beggars belief."

    Mr Croft says community and fair food projects are not risky, and that, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, they are the fastest growing sector in Australia.

    "In attacking community and fair food initiatives, Ausveg are needlessly turning their fire on thousands of individuals and an increasing number of groups whose numbers include the strongest, best informed and most articulate supporters of Australia's horticulturalists," he said.

    "These are groups and individuals that Ausveg should be applauding and supporting."

    Posted Wed 26 Feb 2014, 3:14 PM AEDT
  • From AUSTRALIAN FOOD SOVEREIGNTY ALLIANCE:

    AUSVEG loses the vegetable plot

    Media Release — 25 February 2014

    The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA) is stunned that AUSVEG, the peak body of vegetable producers in Australia, has welcomed the axing of the $1.5 million in community food grants claiming, without evidence, a potential threat to bio-security.

    “The peak body singled out community gardens, which was only one category of the many potential beneficiaries of the axed grant. The other beneficiaries would have included farmers markets, food hubs, community supported agriculture, community food kitchens, food rescue organisations, and more. A total of 364 applications were made to this program.

    “All of these beneficiaries strongly support Australian farmers and Australian vegetable growers in particular,” said AFSA President, Michael Croft.

    “By claiming the axing of community food grants was good policy, AUSVEG is working against the best interests of Australian vegetable growers — particularly those that supply the domestic market.

    “To make matters worse, AUSVEG repeats calls for further trade liberalisation — a double-edged sword.  Free trade agreements, and the import competition they bring, are the main reason for Australian vegetable producers’ woes, as the SPC Ardmona saga demonstrates. That AUSVEG can’t or won’t see this fact beggars belief.”

    Contrary to what appears to be baseless scaremongering, community and fair food projects are not risky. They are the fastest growing food sector in Australia according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES). They enjoy massive and growing community support.

    According to national survey research carried out for AFSA by the Australia Institute in 2012, 53 percent of all Australian adults grow or raise some of their own food and nine percent of all adults participate in community gardening or a related form of community food production. Of the 53 percent that grow or raise some of their own food, nearly a fifth – 19 percent – had begun doing so in the last 12 months.

    “In attacking community and fair food initiatives, AUSVEG are needlessly turning their fire on thousands of individuals and an increasing number of groups whose numbers include the strongest, best informed and most articulate supporters of Australia’s horticulturalists. These are groups and individuals that AUSVEG should be applauding and supporting.

    “Regrettably, AUSVEG appear to have completely lost the veggie plot on this issue. We urge them to take a proper look at the evidence and assess where the real risks to Australia’s biosecurity are coming from, because they’re not from community gardeners,”  said Mr Croft.

    • What a strange place we have come to where growing your own food is being discouraged.

    • How selfish. All that 'biosecurity' twaddle masks what is likely to be the real reason: small scale growers, farmers markets, backyard growers are not buying from the big commercial conventional growers. And that's probably who they represent, overseas-owned and large locally-owned conventional growers who are seeing their market eroded by we backyarders and communities growing clean green food.

      • Yes, I agree, the risk is all this increased community activities is threating big commercial conventional growers near monolopoly ...

        How it threatens bio-security is beyond me... maybe someone can explain?

  • I'm hoping to be able to produce as much food as possible while we experience the "recession we never had to have."   I'm not sure that I will be happy that the nation moves towards surplus while pensioners can't afford to turn their lights on.  I'm also not sure that the soon to increase unemployed will be able to pay very much tax.  Thank goodness they haven't worked out how to tax home grown vege. 

  • Appalling but not un-expected given the current government.

    All the more reason why as many as possible community organisations raise their own funds.

    When Greening Australia first started although it was the recipient of funding under the then-billion trees programme, the management realised they could not rely totally on government funds. They set about making their own money.

    Now there is 'crowd funding' too which wasn't available until quite recently.

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